Christ Lutheran Church - Marshfield, WI

Principles of Interpretation

Principles of Interpretation
By Pastor Andrew Belt

“’Teacher? What shall I do to inherit eternal life?’  
Jesus said to him, ‘What is written in the Law (Torah)?  How do you read it?’”  
 
We are told in Luke 10:26, the Parable of the Good Samaritan, that a lawyer (someone who was well versed in the Old Testament laws and rituals) stands up to ask Jesus this question.  Christ’s response instead asks a question that we also must answer.

“How do you read it?”
 
Jesus wants to know how the lawyer reads the Bible.  This should tell us something about how we should engage with the Bible.  As Pastors, we are constantly telling you to be in your Bibles.  We stress to you over and over to be in the Word.

This is good and right.  But just as we tell you to be in the Word, we should also be telling you how to read it.
 
In another Scripture example, Acts 8:26-40, we are told of a disciple named Philip who came up to an Ethiopian Eunuch who was reading Isaiah 53.  Philip asked him, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And the Eunuch responded by saying, “How can I, unless someone guides me?”

This is an important point.  Unless we know how to read the bible, we might misunderstand what the Bible is trying to teach us.  We all read the Bible through preconceived lens. Some read the text backwards from our time (anachronistically).  Some see it is a rule book, etc.

In fact, at my ordination and installation you heard me say how I would read and interpret the inspired and inerrant Scriptures, the sole authority and norm of the Church. Namely, as they are explained in the Book of Concord (the Lutheran Confessions), because they are a true exposition of how to read Scripture.  So when I open my mouth, you can expect this Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) pastor to say LCMS things.  I promised you that this is how I would teach.

I also had to be taught not just to read the Bible, but also how to read the Bible.  To be honest, I am still not done learning!

So my next few newsletter articles will be focusing on just that.  I will give us some tips and study materials on how you can read the Bible.

I will be using a book called, “How to Read the Bible with Understanding.” Written by Lane Burgland.  This is an easy book for beginners or for people who would like to nail down how to read their Bibles.  I have a copy in my office, and you are always free to come asking for it.   During the next 6 newsletter articles from me, we will cover the following “6 Principles of Interpreting Scripture.”

  •  Pay Attention to Context
  • Stick with the Plain and Obvious Meaning of a Text
  • Scripture Interprets Scripture
  • Interpret Scripture in Light of the Rule of Faith
  • Interpret Scripture in View of Christ
  • Distinguish Law and Gospel, Sin and Grace. 

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